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Words of tribute pour in for former Chronicle publisher

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Words of tribute continue to pour in for former Kane County Chronicle publisher Roger Coleman.

Coleman died of an apparent heart attack Monday in Kentucky. He was 61.

Coleman had worked at Chronicle Newspapers from 1980 through the early 2000s, and most recently was group publisher of the Hudson-Catskill Newspaper Corp. in New York.

“I considered him a dear friend,” said Tom Shaw, president and CEO of Shaw Media, which publishes the Kane County Chronicle. “He served us faithfully.”

Coleman was publisher of The Chronicle when Shaw Media acquired the company in 1989. He headed up the transition of the four semi-weekly Chronicles – those covering Batavia, Geneva, Elburn and St. Charles – into one unified paper and eventually a daily paper.

“We always felt one of the best assets we got in the acquisition was Roger,” Shaw said. “In our view, the Kane County Chronicle became one of the most respected publications in Kane County under his leadership.”

With Coleman, “what you saw is what you got,” Shaw said.

“He was just honorable, and loved his family and was very devout in his faith,” Shaw said. “He was kind and gentle, yet he was a fierce warrior. If someone was challenging his integrity, or challenging his business or challenging his family, watch out.”

Bob Miller, a former professional baseball player who lives in St. Charles, said Coleman was a man who always kept his word.

“He did what he said he was going to do,” Miller said.

For example, Coleman agreed to be part of all of the celebrity golf outings that Miller had arranged.

“I had arranged eight celebrity golf outings for the Fox Valley area, and Roger was in every one of them,” Miller said. “He enjoyed meeting with all the celebrity football and baseball players.”

The two also would regularly talk about local politics and sports.

“He was always interested in what I had to say about the community,” Miller said.

St. Charles Mayor Don DeWitte said Coleman’s commitment to the community was “rock solid.” DeWitte was a St. Charles alderman when Coleman was publisher.

“He was very community oriented,” DeWitte said. “He was an honorable guy in a tough business.”

Shaw said Coleman was dedicated to serving the Tri-Cities.

“He was well-respected by a litany of business people,” Shaw said. “He was involved in a number of boards, and involved in a number of civic and community events.”

Shaw also remembered Coleman’s charisma and his ability to “command an audience.”

“People were always at attention when he was talking,” Shaw said. “They were interested in what he was saying, and his ability to communicate was superb. He could retell a story with such detail and emotion. It was a real gift.”

Other past and current Shaw employees also fondly remembered Coleman.

“He had an commanding presence,” said John Rung, Northwest Herald publisher and chief operating officer of Shaw Media. “He was a great public speaker. It was just so natural for him to talk to people. He taught me a lot about how a publisher should conduct themselves.”

Rung was the Kane County Chronicle’s retail advertising manager from 1994-95 when Coleman was publisher.

Bureau County Republican Publisher Sam Fisher worked for Coleman as the Kane County Chronicle’s ad director from 1990-93. Fisher said he appreciated Coleman’s trust in him.

“He trusted me to do my job,” Fisher said. “I enjoyed the years I worked for him.”

Jim Holm was promoted from salesperson to ad director under Coleman’s leadership. Holm now is advertising director at the Journal and Courier in Indiana.

“He had a big influence on my work ethic and how he handled himself and worked with people,” Holm said.

Coleman’s funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s Church in Utica, with Monsignor James Swaner officiating. Burial will follow at the St. Vincent Cemetery in LaSalle, where he will be laid to rest with his father.

The visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Hurst Funeral Home in LaSalle.

A memorial service will be at 6 p.m. Monday at First Presbyterian Church in Ashland, Ky., with the Rev. Garrett Bugg and the Rev. Jennifer Johnson officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the Roger F. Coleman Grandchildren’s Education Fund has been established in care of Bailey Family Funeral Home, 2110 Argillite Road, Flatwoods, KY 41139.

Condolences for the family may be sent to www.BaileyFamilyFuneralHome.com.

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